62-year-old man fined over S$27k for illegal hawking of roasted chestnuts, netizens suggest alternative approach

62-year-old man fined over S$27k for illegal hawking of roasted chestnuts, netizens suggest alternative approach

SINGAPORE — Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has imposed a hefty fine of S$27,600 on a street hawker for illegal hawking of roasted chestnuts near bus stops and other public places.

The 62-year-old hawker, Tan Hee Meng, must serve a 36-day jail term if he cannot pay the fine.

In a statement issued on Thursday (4 May), SFA said Mr Tan committed 19 counts of illegal hawking of food from May 2019 to March 2023.

Mr Tan allegedly sold roasted chestnuts illegally near bus stops at Ubi and Bedok, a hawker centre in Eunos, and other locations at East Coast Road, Onan Road and Marine Parade Central.

“Despite numerous enforcement actions taken against Tan, he continued to engage in illegal hawking activities, demonstrating a clear disregard for the law, ” SFA said.

SFA added that he was previously convicted in 2018 for similar offences and was fined S$3,600, in default, four days in jail.

SFA: unregulated street hawking poses a risk to food safety

The agency stressed that they will take enforcement action against illegal street hawkers.

“A repeat offender is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, ” SFA encouraged the public to report to the agency should they come across any illegal hawking.

SFA explained that unregulated street hawking poses a risk to food safety. Food sold may be unsafe as the SFA is unable to assure that they meet the food safety requirements.

“In addition, such vendors are transitory and cannot be traced if buyers face problems with their purchases. Through such modes of sales, these illegal street hawkers are in effect passing risks to the unsuspecting consumer to bear.”

Netizens commented the fine too hefty for the elderly

Despite the SFA’s justification for enforcing the penalty due to food safety concerns and the elderly street hawker’s repeated offences, some netizens have commented that the fine seems too harsh for the elderly individual.

Several suggestions have been made, with some proposing that the SFA should empower the elderly street hawker to regulate his business better, instead of imposing a burdening fine on him.

One netizen commented on CNA’s Facebook post, and opined that the elderly street hawker may not have earned that much in his lifetime. It is intriguing that no one in his neighbourhood or authorities has assisted him through proper channels, and he has been fined repeatedly.

Another comment suggested that not everyone who walks past will buy a pack of roasted chestnuts, and it is a rare sight in Singapore. The fine imposed on the elderly street hawker is too harsh, considering his age and the circumstances.

Other netizens commented on Chinese Media 8World News, sympathised with the hawker for receiving such a hefty fine, suggesting the authorities should give him other assistance should the elderly face financial difficulties.

A netizen wrote: “To be honest, this fine could ruin his life! He’s not doing anything evil. Haha…I occasionally buy and eat from him.”

“I have bought from him in Bedok before. Don’t impose such heavy fines on him. He’s just trying to make a living, what’s wrong with that? Whoever has hair doesn’t want to go bald.”

“Street-side newsstands, mobile ice cream vendors, the authorities should issue temporary licenses, have the relevant authorities tried to help?”

“Should just educate the elderly”

Some comments suggest that the authorities should simply educate the elderly man. Perhaps he didn’t know how to apply, especially now that everything is done online and has application deadlines.

While some comments have reminded others that the elderly man is a repeat offender, one netizen has suggested that a better solution would be to issue a license to the hawker and require him to attend mandatory cleanliness workshops.

“How does a $27,000 fine solve any problems except to make the government richer and screw over the citizens?”

Current PAP government intended to “phased out street hawkers”

Some have suggested that certain street carts be given a license to sell goods to liven the atmosphere and encourage people to be enterprising, citing the existence of ice cream sellers on motorbikes.

However, one comment cautioned that the licenses of these current ice cream sellers are only valid for their lifetime, and the current government is attempting to eliminate street peddlers.

“This current govt will not allow the renewal of their licence, meaning, when these elderly ice cream sellers die, there will not be any ice cream seller anymore. ”

In fact, in a written reply to a parliamentary question in 2016, Masagos Zulkifli, then-Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, confirmed that street hawkers were licensed in 1994, in a one-time exercise to control their numbers, and “no more licences were issued after that”.

“The intention was to phase out these street hawkers through natural attrition and allow such trades to move into proper premises,” he said during that time.

The street hawking scheme was reopened in the early 2000s to temporarily help those who are needy and less employable tide over their financial difficulties.

Under the Street Hawking Scheme put in place by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the original intent is to help needy Singaporeans and Permanent Residents tide over their financial difficulties.

Under this scheme, licensed street hawkers are allowed to sell only certain goods including newspapers, ice-cream, canned drinks, costume jewellery and phone cards at specific, fixed locations in public spaces.

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